Health Minister Robin Swann has announced changes to blood donation deferral rules that will bring Northern Ireland in line with the rest of the UK where the changes were implemented in November 2017.
The decision follows consideration of the expert advice provided by the advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs (SaBTO) in their Donor Selection Criteria Report published in July 2017.
Announcing his decision to change to a three-month deferral, Minister Swann said: “Any one of us may require a blood transfusion in the future and we need to be confident that the blood we receive is safe. As Minister for Health it is of utmost importance to me that we maintain the safety of blood and I’m confident that the new policy that I am announcing today will do that, while allowing more people to donate. My decision is based solely on the evidence regarding the safety of donated blood.
“Current blood donation rules prevent people who engage in some sexual behaviours from giving blood for a 12-month period. Having considered the expert advice and evidence provided by the committee for the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs the deferral period for these people will now be reduced to 3 months.”
The Minister went on to stress the importance of donors’ compliance with the deferral rules: “The safety of donated blood depends on two things: donor selection and the testing of blood. Every blood donation is tested for HIV and a number of other organisms. Not even the most advanced tests are 100% reliable, so it is vitally important for every donor to comply with any deferral rules that apply to them.
“I have instructed the NI Blood Transfusion Service accordingly. To allow adequate preparation time the new policy will come into effect on 1 June 2020.”